t was early spring when I took the difficult step of going back to church. Although the pink and white dogwoods were brightly blooming, my heart was filled with the sadness of recent loss
To avoid people’s questions and to protect myself, for weeks I had put off attending church. I did not like feeling that way, but I did not need any more pain. It didn’t take much to cause me to crumble into distress.
However, Easter was different. I hungered to be in church not only to fill my aching soul and worship the Lord but also to reconnect with Christian friends and acquaintances. My wounds were not as fresh now, and I thought I could make
it through a service without any public display of painful emotions. At least I hoped so.
As I sat in the pew that Sunday morning, I thanked the Lord for His power to heal and restore. I drank in the reading of the Word and the encouragement from the sermon. But when I heard the organist softly playing a beloved song—“Because He Lives”—I gulped as I stood with the rest of the congregation to sing.
As I sang the words “all fear is gone,” suddenly the floodgates opened against my wishes. I struggles to brush away my tears and compose myself as memories of pain and loss filled my mind. The question came, What will people think? We are in church!
Shortly after the singing of the last verse, a final prayer was said and the service ended. I turned to leave, still mindful of what had happened but noticing that everyone around me was talking to each other. What had been embarrassment changed to a longing to connect with someone. Slowly I walked down the aisle, glancing all around and then finally leaving the church. No one spoke to me.
The pain of that experience added to the misery I already carried. Wasn’t church where people loved and cared for each other? What was wrong?
That Easter was a difficult experience,
but it became a catalyst in my life to
help bring hope and healing to wounded people. On any given Sunday, church pews are filled with individuals who are struggling with problems and pain. Family problems, health concerns, grief and loss, job-related issues, martial difficulties, and more weigh people down. Many church-goers are depressed and anxious.
All too often, the church does not even recognize those who are living with pain. . . much less do anything to alleviate their misery. As a result, hurting people often withdraw from church until their problems are resolved or they are coping better. But isn’t that the opposite of what Jesus taught?
Jesus said, “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (John 13:34-35). By following His words, the church is challenged to discover what it means as His followers to look, listen, and love.
Although many would say they do look,
it is all too easy to look but not see. How many times do we enter church with our thoughts on something else? How often do we barely notice the people we pass by? How frequently do we sit down in the pew preoccupied with our own lives?
I am guilty of all of these. Blind spots exist, and we often overlook the one sitting near us with tear-filled eyes and a crumbled tissue.
What can we do about this tendency to look but not really see? As we become intention- al on sensing needs, we can change this.
I have found when I focus on seeing and reaching out to at least one person each worship service, I connect better and more deeply. Spending time in prayer before church and asking God to give me His eyes to see those in need enables me to have clearer vision.
How often have you been asked, “How are you?” only to see the person walk away while you were responding? How many times have you found yourself in conversation with someone when another person came along and you never finished that first conversation? Listening must come from the heart as well as the ear.
Too often, hurting people will not have the energy to explain their need in detail. However, if you observe their body language, their eyes, and their tone of voice, you will sense broken hearts and souls starving for someone to care. Asking the Lord to help you listen and really hear the hearts of others is a prayer He longs to answer.
The words of Jesus teach us love is more than words; it is something we do. Love lingers beside the one whose head is bowed. Love cares enough to ask more questions. Love moves in when it’s not convenient or comfortable. Love goes that extra mile. Love asks, “What can I do?” Genuine love is irresistible and winsome. Love keeps reaching.
A few years ago, I walked into church on an ordinary Sunday morning. I turned and greeted a husband and wife seated behind my two daughters and me. We exchanged friendly words, and then the service began.
When the offering was being received, I saw the man who had been sitting behind us was one of the ushers. Suddenly I heard a heavy thud and a few gasps as one of the ushers fell to the floor!
I strained to see what the problem was, and a groan came from behind me as the woman saw it was her husband who had collapsed.
Instantly the atmosphere in the church changed. What had been a routine service became charged with emotion and care. The rescue squad was called. People got up from their seats to stand with this hurting woman as she waited to hear some news. Words of comfort were exchanged and prayers were said. Love was fleshed out in that moment as people connected with each other. The church was alive! I will never forget it.
Eventually, the man regained consciousness and was taken by ambulance to the local hospital. Meanwhile, people had come alive. The worried were comforted, the troubled were embraced with peace, and the anxious were reassured that they were not alone. The people were knit together by their spontaneous prayers.
No Emergency Required
It should not take an emergency to awaken the church to action. Instead, we should all search our hearts and ask ourselves how well we are looking, listening, and loving. Join me, won’t you? In ourselves we can do little, but as we live in the Spirit He will enable us to do “immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine” (Eph. 3:20 NIV).
Wake up, church! The time is now.